The People’s Protection Units, YPG and YPJ


A visit with the guarantors of the revolution in Rojava.

By TATORT Kurdistan

Today, on May 6, 2014, we had an opportunity to spend a day with the People’s Protection Units (YPG and YPJ). We visited the Şehit Jînda Academy and met the graduating class of new commanders, male and female.

The academy stands among cornfields in Cizîre canton, in traditional houses built from mud, as in the villages. At this school, YPG and YPJ soldiers are educated to become commanders. Contrary to our expectations, these soldiers were of various ages and had already had fighting experience. Many had had their first taste of battle in early adolescence, when they fought regime troops, or ISIS, or the FSA, in defense of their district or village.

Now at the academy they are at least nineteen years old, and the training they are getting places special emphasis on political education. As one commander, Heval Rustem, explained, the mind is the best weapon, and men stand in the middle of the battle. The liberation of women and especially the battle against one’s own male-patriarchal identity, he says, is one of the hardest battles that he has to fight, in order to be socially effective. The YPG and YPJ see themselves as transcending parties, but they are unabashedly committed to humanistic values like women’s liberation, the coexistence of all social groups, and a life in grassroots democracy, beyond capitalist modernity.

The academy’s graduates take an oath in which they swear to uphold the paradigm of a gender-liberated, ecological, and democratic society. More and more Arabs, Assyrians, and members of other ethnic identities participate in the YPG and YPJ as well.

The confrontation with the current political situation, and with gender relations, is revealed not only in the curriculum but also in the form of self-organized theater pieces. The sketches at the Moral Forum portray first feudal society and then its deep-seated transformation, especially through the women of the Kurdish freedom struggle; they show the sordid role played by the Kurdish parties close to the South Kurdish KDP. The soldiers recite poems and revolutionary songs. The mood among the activists is decidedly comradely and positive, as we also saw in the many interviews that we were able to conduct.


Campaign TATORT-Kurdistan, Delegation to Rojava, May 9, 2014.
Translated by Janet Biehl. Originally published at